weekend I was able to share my media room with a couple of fellow audiophiles as
they came over for a listen and a demo of a tweak that my friend Tim discovered.
He was thinking about how negative ionizers clean up room air and seem to give
an uplifting effect to ones physiology, so he went down to the local Salvation
Army Store and for $15 purchased an ionizer. Interestingly, he found that after
the unit was running for a while his listening experience in his room improved,
which we also found here. Unhappily at least with his older unit, the fan made
significant noise and one could smell ozone in the air, which can be damaging to
the lungs. So maybe someone out there can take this concept and run.
Then I took out my Smyth Realizer and Stax headphones and ran through the programming for each of them. I really think they were surprised at the fidelity to a system that can be obtained through headphones using the Realizer. Thanks to the Realizer, I've found that I really don't need my center speaker in my 7.1 system, as I and my wife, who sometimes sits directly behind me are centered anyway. Thus I removed the horn system which was centered between the two main speakers. Happily, by opening up the area between the left and right speakers, the imaging produced with stereo improved significantly, and easily overcame the mild loss of centralization of voices on video, which is actually necessary only for movie theaters where not everyone can sit in the center.
It is the beginning of Fall here in New
Hampshire, that's right in-between grass cutting and leaf picking up season; the
perfect time to do a little house keeping on your system. Whether you realize it
or not, over the past year your system, like you, has been aging and
deteriorating, in your case due to age, but in your system its due to oxidation
of connections, aging of tubes, dust accumulating on circuit boards, softening
and stretching of belts on turntables, and sundry other deterioration. So it is
time to get out your tool kit of cleaning products and reinvigorate your
components. You'll be amazed at the results of a couple of hours of work.
First disconnect all components from the wall and
clean all of the contacts with alcohol or any of the contact cleaning
products out there. Then wash them off with distilled water, and dry them. Then,
if you have some of Tim Mroz's silver
paste, apply a thin coat to all ac contacts, and then do the same for
all interconnects, speaker wires and, if you are comfortable opening your
components, to all electrical connections inside them. While the tops are off
your components, airbrush all of that collected dust off the circuit boards so
they'll stay at proper operating temperature.
For those with belt driven turntables, wash the
edge of the platter and belt with rubbing alcohol and check the tolerances of
the belt to see if it needs tightening up or replacement. Add a drop or two of
the table's supplied oil to the spindle if necessary, recheck the cartridge and
arm alignment and clean all contacts, especially the arm's wiring.
Home theater computers will also need a thorough
cleaning of dust, especially on the circuit boards and fan blades and any
filters that may be over the openings. Lift all cards from their slots and clean
their contacts. Type in "msconfig", then "startup" and get rid of any programs
that automatically load that you don't absolutely need that may affect your
While reassembling your system, try running all wiring in such a way to decrease crosstalk between them. Especially separate all interconnects as far as possible from AC cords. Elevate all cords off the floor. Another trick with regular IEC cords is to roll them into a spool and tie together to shorten and have them act as an inductor to get rid of some line noise. Of course this is impossible with high end ac cords due to their thickness and stiffness and should never be done with interconnects, digital cables or speaker wiring.
Rearrange your components. Set up your system
such that digital equipment is as far away as possible from other source
components, especially phono, and preamps. Try moving your speakers around to
see if you can sharpen up the image, balance the bass modes and improve the high
frequencies. Adjust the height and distance from the speakers of your listening
chair. If you use a computer, preamp or preamp-processor with a room and speaker
correction program, try redoing its setup procedure to see if any of the
parameters have changed over the year. Sometimes just moving or adding a piece
of furniture will necessitate rebalancing the system.
Finally, and possibly the most important step, do a thorough cleaning of your ear canals. You'll be amazed at the amount of ear wax that can build up over the year. Don't use Q tips as you could either rupture your ear drum, or push the ear wax against it, which will immediately decrease your hearing by about 50 dB. Go to the drugstore and purchase an ear cleaning kit which will consist of a bottle of a wax dissolving liquid and a bulb syringe. Warm the liquid to body temperature and instill it in each ear and leave for about 10-20 minutes. Then thoroughly wash out each ear canal with body temperature water using the bulb syringe. You'll be amazed at the junk coming out and the improvement in your hearing acuity.
The product I'll be discussing today has absolutely nothing to do with high end audio, but bear with me for a moment. I know that audiophiles are also very picky for the most part with their video systems, and many are as tweaky as me with their video.
Last month I found an article in WideScreen
Review magazine about a new product that seems to sharpen and improve
the contrast gradations of the image without doing anything detrimental. At the
price of only $269 plus an extra HDMI cord, I figured "what the Heh!", and
purchased a unit from this
link, the company that runs the avsforum.
Unhappily, as sales have been more than brisk, the price has subsequently been
raised to $349.
The unit is called the Darbee Darblet, and is produced by the Darbee Vision Co.. No bigger than the typical cell phone, it has one HDMI 1.4 in and output, comes with a 5 volt wall wart and its remote control is a smallish 2 x 3 x 0.25 inch white IR piece that allows one to adjust the amount of processing. It will pass up to 1080P 60 Hz 3D quality. What the unit does is difficult to explain, and their literature doesn't help. What I see is a sharpening with outlines tightened without the halo that normally appears with the process. The colors are more natural and the image takes on a more three dimensional quality. It's almost like a 4K image, and the video effect is similar to what is obtained by upsampling audio.
One can overdue it by over-adjustment, but then
the images take on a cartoonish effect. With my Electrohome 9500LC analog
projector, the best image is obtained using 100% Hi-Def. Others using digital
projectors have recommended 60% to 70% Hi-Def. Using their "gaming" or "full pop"
settings may be great for the kids but is a little too much for me,
over-exaggerating outlines and color. As my projector won't do 3D I have
no way of determining its effects, but other bloggers have given it passing
marks. At $269 it was a steal for what it did to my video, and even at its new
$349 price it's still a great value.
Next month I'll hopefully be discussing a new AC
cord supplement that Steve Klein brought over Saturday that even improved my
system with its multiple ac cleaning stages.